Okra is Green. Okra Cures Diabetes.
“Okra is green. Okra cures diabetes.”
None of us would ever argue that okra is, indeed, green (unless we had some form of colorblindness). But there is no rigorous classification or deduction from which to go by in order to define something as green. We have simply decided to define that particular shade in the light spectrum as green, so it is therefore true by definition and not by deduction. This distinction is incredibly important, and one which is often taken for granted. The fact is that some things are only true by definition, and some are only true by deduction.
What do we mean by deduction here? Well… if I eat tacos at a certain restaurant, and shortly thereafter get incredibly ill, I may deduce by personal experience that tacos are a poisonous food. Or, I may deduce that I contracted food poisoning. But, am I correct? I may well have gotten sick from any number of other foods I consumed through the day, or from a virus. Without proper laboratory testing, it would be hard to tell.
Every day, we make many decisions based on personal deduction and experience. My personal and every day experience is very powerful – and it can keep me from eating old food in my refrigerator, but it might not be able to tell me all the facts behind every situation in which I got sick, and whether or not a particular food I consumed from some other source, was indeed, contaminated.
This is the problem with thinking in terms of “well, it works for me.” And this is where science has to come in. Some facts cannot be true simply because we declare them to be so – they have to be rigorously tested in order to see if they have a definitive and significant benefit to people, more so than random chance, or even my own personal desire to feel better. And it’s easy for us as people with diabetes to get wrapped up in the latest dietary fad, or supplement craze. After all, the toll on our health and on our wallets can be quite challenging, leading many people to lose trust in mainstream treatments… and sadly, to fall prey to all manner of pseudoscience, bad science, speculation, and special interests. And then, because we want it to work, we feel “it just worked for me…” This is called ‘confirmation bias.’
So, as every day citizens – but especially as persons living with chronic health conditions – we must develop a healthy skepticism of what is out there, and of grandiose promises. There are some things we should keep an eye out in order to tell if we are being scammed:
- Beware of anecdotal evidence and remedies shared on social media: People will always claim “well, it worked for me,” or “it cured my symptoms,” etc. But the fact of the matter is – that without a well developed scientific study, with a large population, blind testing, and replicable results, it is dangerous to take anyone at their word when it comes to our health. We humans are biased to look only for the things which are positive to our own way of thinking, and we easily miss the negatives.
- Beware of conspiracy theory talk: There is no denying that pharmaceutical companies make a profit. But pharmaceutical companies also produce an actual product which we all can benefit from, and can be easily tested by science. Non-pharmaceutical companies are also in it for the profit – and they have NO regulation of their products, and no science behind their claims. Some don’t even put the ingredients they claim they are putting in their products, and the health consequences can be dire. If someone is ramping up fear in order to push their product, rather than evidence – be skeptical.
- Beware of exaggerated headlines: Often, these are really blown up in order to generate clicks on the article, or to get readers to unquestioningly side with the writer’s own opinion. When you question the author on their claims, they should be able to reply without issue – and not become defensive.
- Beware of articles with NO source for their claims: If an article has no referral source from which they got their information – there’s no reason to trust in it. It can be considered as speculative, and unreliable. No doctor would ever administer a medication to someone based on information with no sources, or science behind it.
- Beware of unreliable sources: And this is a touchy one. Sadly, there can be a lot of bad science out there when it comes to the medical and dietary fields. There are a lot of competing interests who want their claims to LOOK like science. To sort the good apples, from the bad:
- Look for studies with large population samples, which are more reflective of the overall population
- Look for studies which were devoid of conflicts of interest: a study done by a university on how low carb dieting benefits people with diabetes is more reliable than one which was funded and generated by a company or doctor seeking to profit from their book or their products
- Beware of studies that confuse correlation and causation, use speculative language, cherry pick results, or cannot replicate them. If a study cannot be followed to the letter, and generate similar results – it is not reliable
- Finally – beware of interest groups or parties who publish essays in medical journals with the interest in making them look like they are actual research papers. A large number of citations and being published in a journal do not automatically mean something is a well regarded research study; it can be just the opinions of a few individuals with an agenda.
We all may know that okra is indeed, green. However, without the rigorous field that is the empirical method and scientific research, we all do NOT know that okra cures diabetes. We may infer by personal experience that it does – if we only pay attention to some of the positive markers in our health – but inadvertently ignore the negative ones.
There are MANY diabetes “sources” and communities out there touting various remedies, and extreme diets as the way to manage or even cure diabetes by using exactly all the wrong-headed and bad science that is out there. They feed on our cynicism, and our discomfort for what we don’t like. If you have any questions or concerns about any medical claim, make an appointment with a Certified Diabetes Educator. You may come away with a different conclusion than your educator – but with their help, you can avoid a large amount of pitfalls and headaches. Remember – we may all have our own opinions, but we may not all have our own facts.